Visiting Berlin - What to See and Do
(Berlin Schonefeld Airport SXF, Germany)
Few European cities exude the freedom of spirit more profusely than Berlin
. Perhaps it is still drunk from the fall of The Wall, but Berliners seem to be really enjoying themselves and their creative energy is positively infectious. This is a youthful city, with artists and musicians adding to its appeal.
There is plenty of history to admire at the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The German capital also boasts some very decent museums and similar cultural attractions, from the evocative Jewish Museum to the artistic treasures contained in the Gemaldegalerie. There is no shortage of ways to experience the history of Germany
and this once-divided capital exhaustively.
The real energy is found in the bars and nightclubs of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. These two neighbourhoods, along with Prenzlauer Berg, exemplify the youthful drive at work in this behemoth of a city. You can spend days wandering its slowly gentrifying streets and discovering new cafés, coffee houses and boutiques to boast about. When nature calls, simply head into the vast Tiergarten, Berlin's fantastic urban park.
Ten things you must do in Berlin
- Of the many neighbourhoods in the city that have been revived, the 16th-century Nikolai Quarter is arguably its nicest. Period buildings have been lovingly restored and transformed into upscale cafés, taverns, shops and little hotels. Its narrow lanes feel timeless, helped by the gas lanterns that flicker after dark.
- The 413-acre / 167-hectare Tiergarten is a truly wonderful oasis of greenery and lakes right in the heart of Berlin. You can easily spend an entire day strolling around here, so bring a picnic lunch from any of the cafés lining its perimeter.
- The Gemaldegalerie could well be Germany's finest art museum. From all the German masters to many of Europe's greatest painters, the range of art in this huge building is impressive. The Dutch and Italian masterpieces are particularly worth making the visit for.
- To look back deeper into human civilisation, check out the Pergamon Museum. Here, the Greek and Roman antiquities make up nearly half of the museum, with some real star attractions like the massive Pergamon Altar from 160 BC. In the other wing, the Near East Hall showcases priceless treasures from Babylon, Assyria and Persia. It is one of the world's largest collections from this region.
- While you are in the Tiergarten, stop by the Zoologischer Garten Berlin, the city's zoo and aquarium. Germany's oldest zoo has over 13,000 creatures inside, including giant pandas and Europe's largest aviary. Most of the animals live outdoors in spacious natural enclosures, while the adjoining aquarium is equally impressive.
- The performing arts are in fine form in the city. The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the best on the planet, performing in the modern Kulturforum, a magnificent piece of architecture on its own. Theatrical performances by the Berliner Ensemble and the German State Opera add to the cultural entertainment here.
- Berlin has a rich café culture that stretches back to its golden era in the 19th century. Die Hackeschen Hofe, in former East Berlin, is one of the best places to witness this subculture in action. More than 100 cafés, galleries and boutiques attract a regular crowd of hipsters who bop between shops.
- You can't leave the capital without strolling down its grand shopping avenues, the Unter den Linden and the Kurfürstendamm. The high-street retailers that line this glittering strip prove that the city is once again on the rise. Even if you just window shop, the Ku'Damm is something to experience.
- It would be a shame to visit Berlin and not walk under the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic landmark of this great city. Once a part of the Berlin Wall, it has been a fixture of the city centre since 1814, when Napoleon returned the triumphal arch after having 'borrowed it' for a few years.
- The horrors perpetrated on Germany's Jewish population during the Nazi reign are evocatively portrayed at the Jewish Museum. It is the largest of its kind in Europe, while the structure itself, known as 'the lightning bolt', is an astonishing piece of design. Inside the museum, both the achievements and the terrors endured by Germany's Jews are well-presented.